The Power of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

By Chris Bent, TRUST President

I’m in a book club with a wonderful group of women, and this past month our designated book was “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read it during one of the record-setting stretches of freezing cold and enjoyed being able to immerse myself in the book fully. Our book club host did an excellent job of setting up the book, letting us know it was POWERFUL. She went on to say in the context of the powerful year we’ve had, it felt like the right one to read in the delicate world we live in. She was so right.

The book, written as a letter from the author to his 15-year-old son, recalls Coates’ experiences growing up in Baltimore and his fear of daily violence against the black community, including himself and his son. In it, he talks about his struggle with the “Dream” and how white America, living the dream, has dominated and controlled black bodies. He also discusses the significant harm this has done and the inherent fear this invokes. The author shared how he turned to books to read his way out amidst his struggle to understand. It helped him comprehend his hurt and anger and led him to his professional calling of being a journalist. Telling stories was his gift—where he was able to draw out people’s narratives and become a “conscious citizen of this terrible and beautiful world.” Powerful, indeed.

The book resonated with me on many levels and reminded me of the TRUST’s work in 2021 and beyond. One of our TRUST goals this year is to formally establish diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) goals. Specifically, we committed to appointing leadership, and I’m pleased to announce Lisa Saul, MD, and Rajni Shah will be leading our DE&I work.

We are weaving DE&I into our existing TRUST committees and all of our work wherever possible this year. For example, we held our first DE&I event on March 2 to move diversity and inclusion from a discussion to action within organizations. The session was timely, and we hope it will help spur action on an issue unequivocally essential to organizational success. Thank you to Rajni Shah, MD, who moderated the panel, and to our panelists who work to enable equitable work throughout their institutions: Angel Uddin, Director, Diversity and Inclusion, Blue Cross Blue Shield Minnesota; Ana Núñez, MD, FACP, Professor of General Internal Medicine and Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at the University of Minnesota; and Jacqueline Thomas-Hall, Director, Culture, Diversity & Inclusion at Allina Health.

Our new DE&I leaders will also help us map out our plan for the next few years, including an approach to governance. As we think about this path forward together, as leaders and as people, what are our responsibilities to each other? To ourselves? To our families? To those we serve? What is our call to action for justice and joy?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts, learning from each other and taking action together.

P.S. For those who may have access to HBO, look for their 80-minute film adaptation of the book that includes readings, performance and music. It’s exceptionally well done.

Christine (Chris) Bent currently serves as TRUST President and is Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer for Prime Therapeutics. Chris was named one of the Notable Heroes of Health Care for 2020 by Twin Cities Business.